Abilene High School Class of 1961

The Book Project: Abilene, Texas in the 1950s: A time of innocence

Date: May 1, 2006

To: Abilene High School 19961 class members

From: John Odam


Also posted @ http://www.johnodam.wordpress.com and go to Book Project Page for information.        

First, let me say thank you to Michael Grant for this great idea and for agreeing to be the editor of “the book”.

E-mail Mike @ michaelgrant2@cox.net or go to his site:  www.michaelgrant.com

 Also, thanks to Ray Finfer and Oran Logan for agreeing to help on the business end of publishing and distribution. As you will see, I am pretty excited about this project: Our AHS Class of 1961 working together from points across the United States and some outside of it, to leave behind as our legacy. Right now all we each have are our friends and memories from the growing up in Abilene in the 1950s. At some time, both memories and friends will be gone. But with this book, we will literally leave something behind for our children, grandchildren and future generations. Something about “the age of innocence”: What it was like to grow up in a West Texas town named Abilene. A book of essays, if you want to call it that, of Abilene, Texas in the 1950s. Mike Grant will be putting out something in detail about the actual writing process and how we can pull this together, but I couldn’t wait to put in my two cents. This book is possible, be assured of that. It is doable (if there is such a word), not only from the writing end but also all the way to the sales end.

Here’s a little about that. As Mike says, we are participating in the 4th revolution, the information technology revolution. Just think of it, 200 people around the world, literally are reading this…(Karen Wiggins in Africa). You will write what you want and save the document in your computer. At some point, you will e-mail it as an attachment to Grant in San Diego, CA and get it cleaned up for publication. He will work with you on the editing process. When all of the pieces are ready, we will send it electronically to a print on demand (p.o.d.) publisher. More about that later. Only the number that we want will be published and shipped somewhere. Thus, cost will be as low as we can get it. Best of all, the book will be available to purchase on line. For example, you will be able to order through http://www.amazon.com and other websites. Bookstores around the world will be able to order it. We will only have printed what we need so there won’t be some inventory under someone’s bed or in the garage rotting away.

How to pay for it? My thinking now is that the contributors underwrite the printing expense based on the word count or page count. That is, the more your write, the larger your financial underwriting: Don’t write a lot, don’t pay a lot. We think we can get it placed through the Abilene Historical Society and coordinating with the AISD and AHS. We may try to get a grant for the publication also.

Where does the money go from the sales? Not to the contributors, unless we agree to that to the extent of hard costs reimbursement for the publishing costs. Consider it a labor of love. One idea is that the money goes to our “flower fund” for future funeral services of our classmates. That part of it is way down the line… the first thing is to get volunteers to write, write, write. That means YOU.

We have about 200 classmates on this e-mail list. Thus, we have the opportunity to have that many contribute to this project. If you can think, if you can remember, if you can even sort of type, you can contribute.

AND best of all, you will have the benefit of a great editor in Mike Grant working with you all the way. As you may know, Grant is a true professional: A journalist, newspaper reporter and columnist, an author of books, a college professor on writing, a blogger, (www.michaelgrant.com) … what more could you ask for? AND, it is free to you.

DATA DUMP: I took a writing course several years ago. (I know, you can’t tell it). I had a great prof and one concept he discussed was “data dump”. What is that? First, one can find the time every day to write for a certain period time, be it 15 minutes, 30, an hour or more. Second, just create a document containing your memories and just write away. Don’t initially worry about it being the final product; just get your thoughts down “on paper”. Print it out if you want, but just dump your thoughts, the data, into the computer and save them.

The next day, open the document, read and polish what you did the day before. (Save it to your desktop for easy access) That will provide you the ideas to “dump” more into the computer. You can worry about the organization and whether it makes senses, whether you will use it later. Just get it down on paper.

 Now, what are you going to write about? Mike’s concept is the grade school years, possibly one year, say 1953 or 1954. More from Mike on that later. I know that some of you were not in Abilene during the time. Write anyway. Write about where you were during those years. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the Abilene memories. There should be a place for all. We need all of you.

 WORDS AND PHRASES TO GET YOU STARTED (in no particular order): Four years ago, someone sent me an e-mail to the effect, “you must be from Abilene if you remember X…” I forwarded it to the class list and over the course of a week or so we had about 50 e-mails covering a multitude of subjects. Having reviewed all of these, below I am giving you some food for thought as to what to write about… to get you jump started. You don’t need to write your memories or stories to me… save and write your ideas to submit to Grant.

 Think of the movie, “A Christmas Story”, where the little boy wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and gets his tongue stuck on the freezing light pole. You know the one.

 First, think of the 5 w’s: The who, what, when, where, why. And the senses: smell, taste, hear, touch, see and the sixth sense of emotions, feelings. Feelings: loves, hates, likes, dislikes, etc.

 Grade school, classmates, teachers, boy/girl friends, first? Those hot and cold class rooms, hardwood floors, radiators, those wooden desks, attached to each other on a frame.

 Neighborhood, street names, school mascots… e.g. Valley View Panthers, Alta Vista Roosters. School sports, choir, church choir. Weather, tornadoes, C.E. Schlitzer (sp) on the radio, scrapping ice off the car windshield, hot weather, freezing weather. Mike suggests writing about your neighborhood, i.e. elementary school, and working out from there. Maybe this is a way we will organize it, along with city maps and photographs.

 Piano lessons, Fair Park, the zoo. The Big State Jamboree; wrestling, Gorgeous George. AHS football games on Friday night, junior high games on Thursday night. Country club, ballroom dance lessons, folk dancing at grade schools.

 First deaths in the family of grandparents and feelings about that. Going to the movies on Friday night, Saturday mornings, the public library; the western movies, the serials. Tickets for 5 cents, nine cents, a quarter. The radio shows, Lum and Abner, Sky King, Sgt. Preston, the Green Hornet, The Shadow, etc.

 Television? KRBC. Dub and Larry, local programming, Crusader Rabbit, Kalvin KeeWee, Slim Willet and “Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes.”

Learning to ride the bike.

Going downtown to Paramount, Majestic, Queen, Texas, Linda, State, Metro (for the south side kids).

 Window shopping at Minter’s, Grissom, Thornton’s. Going to see the Christmas window at Thornton’s and the x-ray machine of the feet in the shoe department.

 The big hotels, Wooten and Windsor. T&P railroad. Going to View to catch the north /south train. Airport? Riding the city bus around town. The three colleges.

After school activities. Abilene Blue Sox. Mrs. Baird’s Bakery, (those miniature loaves of bread with butter on them) real country music, KRBC, KWKC. The beginning of rock n roll; Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the dirty bop. Hoop skirts, a hundred petty coats. Lip stick for the first time. Camp Tonkawa, Abilene State Park and the freezing cold swimming pool.

 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, Cubs. Hunting, fishing, Fort Phantom. Petroleum Club, Charlie Blank’s. Loawkie (sp). Bootleggers. The Bluebird Café, Dixie Pig, Mrs. Brown’s Boarding House, the Drake Hotel, Zick’s News stand. The east/west streets all numbered and the north/south streets named after trees —- most of which were not even near Abilene.

 Family autos: Studebaker, Ford, Chevy, Nash Rambler, Hudson. All unairconditioned.

The Chicken Shack…. Jerry Lee Lewis…. ACC Hill. School safety patrol.

 Think “DAD”… description of people, places and things; Action for your action and that of others; and Dialogue, yours and others. Use the places and things in a story or stories.

 Camp Barclay. Gandy milk and Gandy points. The Western Parson, local TV show. Dean Beard and the Little ???. Petty coats, Levi’s and boots and high top black tennis shoes. The Guitar Mansion. The drive-in movies: Tower Twin, Park Drive-in, Crescent. Playground up front.

 Flooding under the railroad tracks in the underpasses. Seeing Santa @ Mrs. Baird’s. Saturday morning “kiddy shows” and the afternoon westerns with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Tim Holt, Johnny Mac Brown, Wild Bill Elliot, Lash LaRue, Whip Wilson (live!), yo-yo contests. The “cave” under the Fair Park auditorium.

 Life, like TV was black and white and pretty simple it seemed. “Charm class” “Little Dee-Don” on the Slim Willet Show. Wahoo McDaniel, the wrestler. “On the Farm” with Harry Holt.

 Going to Cisco to go swimming. Gigging for crawdads in Catclaw Creek or Elm Creek. Riding the Shetland pony at Fair Park. Milk bottles delivered at the door. Borden’s Dairy, Banner and Longhorn. The Lone Ranger on the radio. Foremost Dairy.

 College Heights Mustangs, Fannin, North Park, Bonham, Travis, Houston, Bowie Bobcats, Alta Vista Rooster, Valley View Panthers, Lamar, Fair Park Indians (?), Crockett Crocodiles, Central.. mascots?

Dr. Lindley’s Animal Clinic at the edge of town. Mack Henson Groceries. M-System, Safeway.

 You get the picture. Happy writing. At the blogsite, you can add comments. Thanks for your attention. JO (of Valley View)



  1. This is a test

    Comment by johnodam — May 2, 2006 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  2. JO,


    Comment by ANN COLLIER — May 2, 2006 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

  3. Ann: you are welcome.. keep on writing… just put in on paper each day. Then go back and polish it and that will lead to more stuff…. and look at some of those jump start words and phrases.. I haven’t figured out organization yet… Grade school, parents, friends, teachers, and work out from there.. puting them in places and doing “things”… It will come… should be fun and interesting.. especially when we have it all together to compare notes. JO

    Comment by John Odam — May 3, 2006 @ 1:29 am | Reply

  4. John,
    i had no trouble getting this web page. thank you.
    marian hann waldrip

    Comment by marian hann waldrip — June 28, 2006 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  5. Hi, I have found a high school class ring from Abilene high school from 1950 with the initials W L B on the inside…would like to get it back to them or their family..Can you help?

    Comment by Ronnie Gaskins — June 26, 2010 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  6. Glad to have found this just foolin’ around on the internet. I graduated between Pat Wright and Sally Zimmerman. It think there were 542 Grads.

    Comment by Mike Wyatt — July 20, 2010 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  7. Anyone out there have a pic of Harry Holt? I couldn’t find any on Google.

    Comment by bill — August 13, 2010 @ 10:18 pm | Reply


    Comment by gary stevens — September 7, 2010 @ 8:37 pm | Reply

  9. What’s up with all these ALL CAPS posts? Are these people AOL users?

    Comment by billbo — September 7, 2010 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  10. I did not know there was anything wrong w/ caps. I will use both.

    Comment by gary stevens — September 8, 2010 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  11. The fact that you “did not” know says a lot. Did you drop out of school very early?

    Comment by James — September 8, 2010 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  12. I graduated from the school of hard knocks as well as high school and trade school. I tend to worry about relevant things. since retirement I dont worry about them either too much. thanks.

    Comment by gary stevens — September 8, 2010 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

  13. We were in Abilene in April for the first time in many years. We had lunch at the DIXIE PIG. The food was good and plentiful but the payment is cash only. That is o.k. as it helps keep the lunch special below 7 dollars including drink and dessert. I recommend it.

    Comment by gary stevens — September 8, 2010 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  14. I was a kid in the 60’s so my memories are a little later. Remember local TV programming? I was on Gandy’s Bid and Buy once. I think Bill Chaney (the weather guy) was the M.C. Boy, he seemed like such a famous person. There was the Sandy Chappel show from 12:15-12:30 weekdays, I guess there was only 15 minutes of news back then rather than 24 hours. I was actually on that once too. Remember “Henry’s Den” that was on during the morning sometime – I think on channel 12, but I don’t remember that one as well.

    There was a skating rink on Shelton that I wish was still open. I’m not sure if the building is even still there. The guy who ran it seemed so *old* (probably younger than I am now, which is weird to contemplate) and was very strict. No flags on your clothing!

    Remember going to the Town Crier and pushing a button to place your order – wow, how high tech!

    The Abilene Astronomical Society used to meet in the Dixie Pig – had a lot of good times in the little back room behind the curtain. We took telescopes to the Westwood when Star Wars was showing – got on TV.

    Comment by Steve — September 24, 2010 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

  15. I was stationed at Dyess AFB in Abilene Texas between 1957 and 1960.I use to hang around the Drake Hotel now called the Grace Museum. I knew the night clerk Alvin Kent and also the portors who were very nice men.They invited my friend Alvin to their church for Sunday breakfast where the great singer Lena Horn was the speaker. I mostly hung around the Drake Confectionary which was located inside the hotel. It was owned at that time by Don Norris who also was a newspaper reporter for The Abilene Reporter News. One special person who worked their was Karen Hooper who later became Karen Billingsley, who later moved to IND. She passed away appx. 10 years ago at a very young age. Don asked me to work at the Drake Confectionery part time when i got off my air force job in the evening.He said since i always hung around the place i might as well make some extra money. He and his wife were very nice people, i beleive she was a school teacher. I also met a girl whose first name was Nelda through my friend Alvin I beleive she was part American Indian. She worked the next building over at loan company while attending College. I beleive she became engaged to a Minister around 1960. If anyone knows of her where abouts I’d appreciate letting me know so that we can talk about the good old days. One of the lasting things that i remember was on a week end night, i was going back to the base and i heard a loud noise, someone in a stationed wagon had rear ended another vehicle. I later read in the paper the next day that person was Tex Ritter, the Cowboy actor and singer(remember the record “The Deck Of Cards?) He was also John Ritters Father.

    Comment by Frank Silva — October 19, 2010 @ 4:18 am | Reply

  16. Frank, have you actually went your entire life thinking “believe” is spelled “beleive”? It appears you didn’t get very far in school, like many others here.

    Comment by Tom — October 19, 2010 @ 5:18 am | Reply

  17. Tom, is this all you have to do all day is correct a persons spelling. Why don’t you get yourself a partime job as a proof reader to keep yourself busy. I knew a person who remindes me of you, In College he would always be the first person to finish a test. We all thought he was pretty smart until someone noticed the low test scores he received. We then realized that he had to be the first person to complete the test, he just had to be number one. Oh! and by the way he carried a bottle of malloux with him all the time. Tom take your malloux.

    Comment by Frank Silva — October 20, 2010 @ 9:41 am | Reply

  18. Anyone still out there ???? My mother and Father oth went to Abilene high school in the early 50’s.. Robert Frizzell (left and went to St Andrew’s)and Helen Jackson who worked at Minter’s…. Anybody have yearbooks or memories of them???
    thank you.

    Debra Frizzell

    Comment by debbi frizzell trumble — March 17, 2013 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

  19. I was a kid in the 60’s, and remember most of the things listed. My Dad was The Zookeeper at the old Fair Park Zoo on South 7th Street, so I literally grew up at The Zoo. I lived on South 5th Street. I remember Kiddy Land ,Kids Recreation Center behind The Zoo. , The big brick building which .used to be an old Courthouse, or something, Fair Park School and kids from Elmwood St were considered the rich kids, I walked down in the creek all the time, the red ice cream truck, think it cost 15 cents for a coke in a bottle and a bar of candy.

    Comment by Marilyn Dennis — March 22, 2014 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

  20. Does anyone remember a late evening radio show – jazz – on (I think) KWKC? Theme song was “Night Train” by Buddy Morrow…

    Comment by Troy — November 20, 2014 @ 12:45 am | Reply

  21. Lived nearby Abilene, small town in 1950’s thru 1965. Moved to Abilene in 1965, graduated from AHS in 1967. Abilene was THE city in this area. Going to Abilene meant dressing “up” in my best clothes, going with my grandmother who shopped Minters and Grissoms downtown. Mack Eplin’s cafeteria, Chicken Shack on Sunday’s sometimes…remember the frozen fruit salad and the chicken images on the fluorescent lights? We would pass by the Guitar Mansion and my grandmother would always comment on that house as an impressive house. It was built when she was a senior in high school in 1912 and was an example of high attainment back then, so sad that it couldn’t be preserved. My dad worked for KRBC back then and later at MacWood Oil Co. Who could forget Thornton’s Christmas window display and Santa’s workship next door, Mackies..toy story…. Sometimes we went to the Paramount Theater so elegant with the SKY ceiling…my mom had gone there when she was a young person in the 1930’s. I remember when Gibson’s Discount Store opened…that was a dawning of the new age of shopping malls when shoppers chose mall’s instead of downtown. Elmwood Shopping Center became the NEW downtown.
    I could go on…I know that the tradition of a winning football program at AHS was definitely instilled in the 1950’s because when I was in school there the teams were trying desperately to regain that glory. 1965 thru 1967.

    Comment by Stephen Vinson — July 11, 2015 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

    • If I have misspelled a lot of words please do not blame Miss Loving or Mrs. Morrow they taught English with flare and curious personal quirkiness.

      Comment by Stephen Vinson — July 11, 2015 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  22. It was your horrible use of apostrophes that got my attention. I was tempted to take a screenshot and post it on Apostrophe Catastrophes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/18217727083/

    Comment by billsmith1948 — July 11, 2015 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: